Saturday, December 15, 2012

Response to the Unthinkable

photo of: Light Your Candle

What do you say when words are inadequate? There is no conceivable combination of words that could articulate the depth of sorrow experienced in the face of the unthinkable loss of children in their school setting yesterday. 
To use the word 'tragic' is to barely scratch the surface of the many emotions swirling to the surface and boiling over. Have you found yourself in tears mid holiday classic re-run?

What can we say of these current times? To borrow from Charles Dickens,  
"It was the best of times and it was the worst." The creeping darkness that has always been at the periphery of human history threatens to expand in the face of this most recent horror. It is indeed an unthinkable nightmare.... but now the unthinkable is subject of both the evening news and internet alike, because the unthinkable was conceived and born into our midst. How do we respond? 

Some time ago I was barricaded in a kindergarten classroom, while wearing my polka-dots, with a novice teacher during a ninety minute ++ lock-down with the tiniest of students in the building. Little did we know at the time of our huddled darkness and whispering, that a bank robber was being pursued in the housing subdivision just beyond the playground. My summers of camp counselor story-telling took over and I wove a yarn of epoch proportions to fill the darkness. I know that my age and voice of calm was a support to the children and to their oh-so-young teacher. Having the two of us together was such a gift during the lengthy period of unknowing. Never once during that entire time did it feel to me that we were in any actual peril, but I do know first hand what its like to experience a lock-down with the 'littles.'

photo of: Rachel's Challenge Poster

Our Colorado grand-children attend Blue Heron Elementary, which is a feeder school for Columbine High School. It would be an impossibility to locate a teacher in this country that would not recognize that school's name. 1999. 
What have we learned? For the survivors, the earth continues to rotate. 
The sun continues to come up. Gravity apparently continues to exude its hold. Yet everything familiar was changed in a moment. 

During my recent school visits to Blue Heron I photographed this massive, collaborative hand-print assemblage in Rachel Joy Scott's honor. Her's was the first life taken at Columbine H.S. and has led to an entire movement to keep her personal beliefs alive and growing. 

photo of: Rachel's Challenge Hand Print Collaboration at Blue Heron Elementary, Littleton CO

Her shortened life has a legacy that ripples forth. There is a lasting organization, "Rachel's Challenge" (click here) that has continued to grow over the last decade and focuses on the positive chain reaction that is possible when 'goodness' is at the center of interactions. Indeed this is the evidence that good prevails over that particular episode of the unthinkable. The organization shines light from the darkness.

photo of: Rachel's Challenge at Blue Heron Elementary, Littleton CO

We must each light our own candle in the face of the darkness in our midst. We must each make daily contributions to the light shining brightly. We gather our family members close and hug them anew with the knowledge that the unthinkable is just a heartbeat away. We extend our deepest prayers of support to those whose world was up-ended yesterday. We double our energies and efforts at making a difference, building a legacy and collectively supporting all that is positive and whole. 

Tonight I am gathering a series of links from some of the best in the mental health and parenting field, to shine tomorrow at our collaborative blog Prek+K Sharing. Our hope is that this collaboration of insight can support you as parents and educators to enter the days and weeks ahead with insight and encouragement. There are literally dozens of links in our collaborative article for your support.

In the meantime? Light your candle. 

photo of: Candles Lit Against the Darknes

**I just realized that an earlier article I wrote here, called "Blue Christmas" might be of some consolation due to the timing of this particular sorrow. It speaks to those who are at a point where 'celebrating' the festivities of the season are a challenge due to personal circumstances. 

-- Debbie --


  1. You did a fantastic job conveying what I am feeling about this tragedy. I also appreciated how you gave me hope that eventually something positive can come from this horrible tragedy like Rachel's Challenge. Thank you for this post.

    Thinking Out Loud

    1. Jana, I'm grateful for your feedback. It is so difficult to articulate anything meaningful in the face of this tragedy. The images from Rachel's Challenge are uplifting and encouraging -- offering us hope that there can indeed be a positive response to the unthinkable. I'm glad that it offered you some encouragement as well. The more I read on their website the more I was encouraged.


  2. Beautiful post, Debbie. I can not get this tragedy out of my mind as a first grade teacher myself. We all feel helpless as a nation to heal this unthinkable act of violence. Thank you for Rachel's story. I am not familiar with this and was very impressed. Thank so much for this post. Sue

    1. Sue, you are welcome. Our perception of our schools and our classrooms will be viewed thru an entirely new prism. However we can re-dedicate our efforts and our ideals has never been more necessary than right now. I wish you well as you move forward with your work. I am cheering for your efforts.

      Follow your heart.


  3. Debbie,
    Thank you for the beautiful post. I think teachers all across the country wish we could form an honor guard for our lost teachers and precious little ones. The blogging community is allowing us to join together to honor them and support eachother. Your past blog on "blue Christmas" is so touching not only in light of this tragdey, but for whatever losses we all carry. I personally had 2 huge losses last Christmas, including a tragic one. The post helped as I continue to heal. God bless you for all the joy you bring to so many.
    Holly Rose

    1. Holly, I can't even begin to convey how grateful I am to 'realize' that you're "out there" in the big cyber connection, reading over my shoulder. I am so grateful for your taking the time to figure out how to navigate the 'commenting' process.

      It seems to me that if there is any 'point' in challenge or tragedy is to get over and through it and then be available for those in the midst themselves. I'm glad that my experience of the "Blue Christmas" worship service was able to offer you support at this time -- while you continue to process your own loss.



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